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New Teachers Seize the Day
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Shanghai's first group of trainee teachers exempted from fees began their university study on Chinese Teachers' Day yesterday.

More than 1,000 teachers at East China Normal University began their four-year course at the new "Meng Xiancheng College," a school for professional teachers and ethics.

Students from the Shanghai Luwan Special Needs Education School hang a greeting card for their teachers on a maple tree yesterday, while Dr Shi Derong, Chief Executive Officer of the 2007 Special Olympics World Games Executive Committee, watches. Twelve teachers from the school were rewarded for their contributions to special education. (photo: Shanghai Daily)

ECNU is one of six domestic universities that have been required by the State Council to train for free elementary school teachers for the country's underdeveloped western regions.

The students, of whom more than 95 percent are from western rural areas themselves, will each be entitled to an allowance of 60,000 yuan (US$7,926) to cover tuition and living expenses during their four-year university life.

After graduating, the teachers will have to work as elementary school teachers at underdeveloped western regions for at least 10 years.

The new policy proved to be hugely popular with high school graduates, especially those from needy families.

ECNU officials said nearly 1,000 local students applied for the 52 seats in the city. The competition was even fiercer in other parts of the country.

"The tuition fee exemption is undoubtedly an important factor," Wu Qi, a student from Hami of the country's northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, told Shanghai Daily yesterday.

"But I would also be willing to work as a teacher who can spread knowledge to help poor children in the western region," she added.

The "Meng Xiancheng College" was named after a famous Chinese educator and founder of the university. It has a philosophy of encouraging communication within the teaching profession and nurturing love for education through regular activities.

Students on the course will have to study both sciences and arts regardless of their majors, said Ren Youqun, ECNU's assistant president.

(Shanghai Daily September 11, 2007)

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